As parents, we have a lot of things on our plate. Besides work and errands, we have the awesome responsibility of keeping our little ones healthy and happy. Healthy balanced meals give them the fuel to grow, but getting enough sleep is an incredibly important part of your child's health. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends that children between the ages of 3-6 should get 10-13 hours within any 24 hour period. This includes naps. To put this in perspective, at the minimum requirement, a child who wakes up at 6am should be asleep by 8pm every night. That means bedtime may need to start an hour or more before. A child that needs the upper end of sleep will need to be in bed even earlier, sleep later, or take a long nap. Children who are chronically low on sleep may be lethargic, cranky, or even overly active and unable to settle down. Unfortunately, most parents struggle at some point with maintaining a good bedtime routine. So what can you do?
1. Be consistent. Bedtimes can alter because of trips, illness, even just day to day changes. Be as consistent as possible. Pick a time to start your bedtime routine and stick with it.
2. Make a routine. Bath time, stories, and songs are all great ways to wind down and relax. Avoid TV or other media as these can stimulate the brain and make sleep less likely.
3. Keep track of how your child's behavior changes as bedtime approaches. Are they getting agitated and "wound up"? You might need to push bedtime back a little.
4. Listen to your child's teacher about changes in nap time. An increase in sleep can indicate a growth spurt or impending illness.
A little preparation can make a big difference for little people. And we are all happier when every one gets enough rest!